In less than six months, the people of southern Sudan will vote in a self-determination referendum that is expected to result in the secession of the South roughly a year from now. The dynamics shaping the historic and dramatic changes in Sudan are fluid, yet some of the core issues facing southern Sudan will endure regardless of the outcome of the referendum. In this field dispatch for Enough, southern Sudan field researcher Maggie Fick identifies some of these key, lesser recognized, flashpoints.
In the immediate aftermath of Sudan’s elections back in April, several potential flashpoints emerged. While the polls had passed generally peacefully in the South (at least at face value), the post-elections period has been marked by an escalation in tensions.
JUBA, Sudan — While celebrations marked the inauguration of Sudan president Omar al-Bashir to another term of office in Khartoum, the mood was more somber and determined in southern Sudan. The people of southern Sudan are looking ahead to the referendum in January 2011 when they will vote to determine if the south can secede to become an independent country.
Although the bulk of the results for Sudan’s recent national, regional, state, and local elections have been announced, the potential for local outbreaks of post-election violence in certain areas of the South remains. At this tense juncture, the results of several hotly contested races for state governor may spark local violence and potentially broader conflict in the near future, with consequences for the South’s fast-approaching self determination referendum. This dispatch provides a brief overview of some of the more disconcerting situations.
"Many people are surrendering," Mohamed Yousuf Omer says, gesturing toward some of the people leaving the polling station at Hai Jalaba Basic School in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan on Sunday. "I think I also may have to." Omer tells me that he could not find his name on the voter registry list posted at the polling station. No name on the list, no point in joining the line of men and women waiting to cast their votes in the first multiparty elections Sudan has held since 1986 -- the year Omer, now 24, was born.
"Surrendering" was the word used by several voters I spoke to, who seemed to think that perhaps it was not God's will for them to vote. Unfortunately, the polling troubles I've seen so far here in South Sudan are less than divine: They're technical and administrative. This election is more complex, more ambitious, and more byzantine than even most Western countries would attempt. Southern voters, 85 percent of whom are illiterate, have 12 separate ballots to fill in. Voters in the North must fill in six. Just three days of polling will have to accommodate 15.7 million voters. An estimated $300 million to $400 million has been funneled into these polls, including $100 million from the United States, in hopes that Sudan can pull it off.
JUBA, SUDAN/ WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Enough Project at the Center for American Progress today released the following statement:
A series of deals in February 2010 over elements of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, largely went under the radar of international media attention, but offers important insights into the current dynamics of deal making that may trigger a return to North-South war. The Obama administration should heed the lessons from these deals and encourage coordinated international action, argues “Deal Making in Sudan,” a new report from the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress.
“The motivations and means by which Khartoum and Juba negotiate the most contentious political issues in Sudan will ultimately determine whether the South’s self-determination referendum proceeds peacefully or plunges the country back into war,” argues the report by Maggie Fick, Enough's South Sudan field researcher. “The strategy (or lack thereof) behind the international community’s involvement in these negotiations will also have an enduring impact on security throughout the Horn of Africa.”
Without a coordinated international effort aimed at ensuring the timeliness of negotiations, one or both of the parties could use a delay in discussions to their advantage next year. The fact that the positions of the international community toward Sudan remain poorly coordinated and designed at this late hour could well spell trouble ahead.
“More and more of the negotiations between North and South appear to be taking place without effective international support or guidance," notes John Norris, Executive Director of the Enough Project. "While that may produce some deals in the short-term, that approach is unlikely to resolve the big-ticket issues that could spark a return to war such as how to split oil revenues or how to divide contested border areas. Enormous amounts of work remain to be done.”
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.
All signs indicate that Sudan, Africa’s largest state, will very soon split in two—either peacefully or violently. In a self-determination referendum scheduled for January 2011, the people of southern Sudan are widely expected to vote for separation from the north.
In the absence of an effective response by the Sudanese government to the LRA, many local men and boys have taken community security into their own hands. They are part of a loose-knit, meagerly armed, local defense force called the Arrow Boys.